Friday, August 21, 2009

Aimee Friedman Is Coming To DBF!!!

Aimee Friedman
Decatur Book Festival
The Escape stage
Saturday at 2pm
(Along with As You Wish author Jackson Pearce)

Aimee Friedman has got about the best giggle of anyone I know. She also has a terrific sense of style, a work ethic that baffles me, and a string of bestselling novels that are all delicious reads. (South Beach, Hollywood Hills, French Kiss, The Year My Sister Got Lucky, and her newest, Sea Change.)

Because she is a friend of mine (and not just a fabulously dressed, superstar author), I am mega-extra enthusiastic about her appearing on The Escape stage this year at the AJC-Decatur Book Festival. I want you to be excited too, so here's a little interview I did with Aimee back in June when Sea Change was fresh from the sea and served up on shelves everywhere.


1. Sea Change is a novel that takes place in the South, whereas you yourself are a Northerner. What was it like writing about a different area of the country, and what kind of research did you have to do to bring Selkie Island to life?

I am a born and bred New Yorker (just like Miranda in Sea Change), but I have always been fascinated by the South. This may be due to the fact that my mother let me watch Gone with the Wind when I was about five, and I fell in love with all the romance and allure and rich history of Dixie (the same thing happened all over again when I read the book at fourteen!). When I got the idea for Sea Change, there was no doubt in my mind that it would take place on an island off the coast of Georgia; the heat and lushness and mystery of the South all seemed to lend themselves to the feel of the story I wanted to tell. Before I started writing, I took an amazing trip to Savannah, and to beautiful Tybee Island. Those places helped me enormously in my creation of the fictional Selkie Island. (In fact, the Discovery Center in Sea Change is based on a similar place on Tybee Island). I am also lucky enough to have good friends who hail from the South, and my editor has family in the South, so as I wrote, I would often email them questions and get their expertise.

2. Miranda's grandmother plays an important role in this book. Can you talk a little about grandmothers and how they influence us, both positively and negatively?

My maternal grandmother, Margaret, was one of the great influences in my life, and we were incredibly close. She actually passed away a few months ago, at the ripe old age of 95, and it has been very difficult for me, dealing with her loss— and a small part of that is knowing how much she would have enjoyed Sea Change. She liked all my books, no matter how racy! My paternal grandmother, Civia, is—knock on wood— still very vital, but I do not get see her as often, since she lives overseas. But I cherish the fact that I was and am fortunate enough to know my grandmothers, to hear their stories and take in their wisdom. To me, grandmothers are about stories — about the tales and legends and histories that make up your family, that make up who you are. They are a link to the past, to what has passed and is now intangible. Grandmothers are also about the complicated bond that exists between women, and I wanted to explore all these themes in Sea Change. It was for this reason that I dedicated the book to my two grandmothers.

3. Sea Change is a bit of a departure for you, genre-wise. How was it writing a slightly-fantastical book compared to your other novels (The Year My Sister Got Lucky, South Beach) that are grounded more in real life?

The idea for Sea Change came to me pretty fully-formed; I love mermaid stories—from the Hans Christian Andersen fairy-tale to the movie Splash— and I liked the notion of switching up the gender roles. So I knew the book would have a touch of magic, and the challenge therein excited me. It was definitely tough in parts, conveying those fantastical elements in the story. I have the utmost respect for fantasy authors, and I do not fancy myself one! To me, Sea Change is ultimately a love story, and the magical aspects are almost incidental…but read it for yourself and see!

4. You work in publishing as an editor, but are also a writer. Can you talk a little about how you balance these two aspects of your life?

I don’t sleep very much! And I have very, very understanding friends. Juggling what are essentially two different careers means making a lot of sacrifices, whether it’s the gym (sigh), seeing friends, sometimes even, well, sanity. But overall, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I think being a writer has actually made me a better, more sensitive editor; many of my authors tell me they appreciate that I know what it’s like to be on the “other side” of things. However, I think that when my editor brain creeps into my writing, that can be a little troubling. Yes, I’ll often catch things and make tweaks that improve the story. But self-editing while you write is a surefire way to slow down the process and suck you into a whirlpool of self-doubt. Not. Fun.

5. There's a lot of great references to mermaid mythology and lore sprinkled throughout Sea Change. What's some of your favorite mermaid stuff you learned while writing this book?

I had a lot of fun researching Sea Change. Just when I’d decided to write the book, the Museum of Natural History (which plays a small role in the book!) opened their exhibit on Dragons, Unicorns, and Mermaids. So that exhibit was my first stop in terms of research, and I took lots of notes on mermaid lore that existed around the world. Probably my favorite mermaid myth that I discovered was the tale of Glaucus, a Greek sea-god. Glaucus was a fisherman who was transformed into a merman, and he fell in love with a beautiful nymph. I liked the Glaucus story so much that I managed to work his name into Sea Change.

6. Were there any surprises for you in writing this book?

I was surprised to discover, in my writing, that I wanted to leave the ending of the book open-ended. I won’t spoil it too much for those who haven’t read it, but Sea Change leaves a lot of room for interpretation (which I know has driven some readers crazy!). I think a lot of that had to do with my decision to maybe expand the book into a sequel; I fell in love with the characters as I wrote them and realized that I didn’t want to close out their story just yet. So we’ll see!

7. Miranda is on the cusp of a lot of change in her life in this book. Some of it we see, and some of it is only hinted at. What do you hope Miranda will be like in five years?

I hope Miranda becomes someone who is still passionate about science and math —the science world needs more women!— but yet remains open to the possibilities of magic and mystery. I won’t say much more than that since I hope to write a sequel one day! (see above).

8. There are some interesting upper-class-versus-working-class dynamics in Sea Change. What do you think can be gained by hanging with the ritzy kids? What about those with callused hands?

I definitely wanted Sea Change to touch on class divisions. It was important to me that the ritzy kids not come off as necessarily the “bad kids”— vapid Gossip Girl types—but to also have redeeming qualities. The thing is, you really never know where you will find a true friend, whether it’s in the upper-class realm into which you may have been thrust unwilling, or the working-class realm you may feel more at home in. Everybody is going to have their flaws, and I think growing up is in many ways about being open to possibilities, regardless of society’s divisions.

9. There are also some smoky kisses in Sea Change, and also some duds. What do you think it takes to make a kiss one of mythic proportions?

Wow! I love ending the Q&A on such a romantic note! I think a kiss has everything to do with—as Miranda herself might say—chemistry. If you have chemistry with someone: if there’s an emotional click and spark, if you “get” each other and have great conversation, it’s USUALLY a pretty surefire bet that the kisses you share will be magical. On the other hand, if you lack that intense connection, that missing spark can come across in a kiss as well. Then again, kisses and chemistry are as unpredictable as love itself. There’s certainly no scientific formula for falling in love, and I hope readers of Sea Change will find that idea in the book’s pages.

1 comment:

Shelli (srjohannes) said...

the scbwi meeting and signing was a success tonight. Thanks for having it! :)